Lansing-LVHS renewed; Basehor hosts Bishop Ward, Pleasant Ridge to Horton

It’s go time.

On Friday at 7 p.m., the 2017 prep football season will commence as hundreds of programs across the state kick off the campaign with a glimmer of hope for some and a sun-drenched avalanche of expectations for others.

Locally, four teams will get their seasons started and two of them will highlight festivities as Lansing and Leavenworth rejoin a battle that is 365 days in the waiting.

Leavenworth at Lansing

A year ago, the Lions won a dramatic 30-28 decision over Leavenworth.

Both teams enter this year’s contest with much different looks as Lansing got younger, Leavenworth got older and everyone will have something to prove.

“We expect Leavenworth to be very well-prepared and play a hard, physical game,” Lansing head coach John McCall said. “We know they are very well-coached and coach (Mark) Littrell will have them prepared for an exciting rivalry game. We expect the game to be extremely competitive and close.   

“Our expectations for this first game are to coach an excited group of players. It is tough to play a rivalry game in week one. We expect the game to be close, so win or lose, we will be pleased with our players as long as we play as hard and smart as possible.”

Both teams will hit the gridiron without two players who electrified the crowd a year ago. Lansing’s Quinton McQuillan graduated and moved on to play for KU. LVHS’ Anthony Gould moved on to play at West Salem, Oregon. The two combined for 269 yards on the ground and four total touchdowns, two apiece. 

It will be a new look on both sides and an expected fun game once again.

“I expect a great football game from both teams,” Littrell said. “Lansing is a good football team and we will have to play well at all three phases of the game.

“Lansing has a very good offensive and defensive line with some very good skill players. It is always a good thing to start the season off with a win. More importantly, we need to play well and play with great effort.”

So far, preparations for this contest have gone well, but more is always hoped for.

“Our past practices have been good, but we expect another level out of our team this week in practice,” McCall said earlier in the week. “Everything is a concern at this time and we will let Friday determine what our strengths and weaknesses are for this early part of the 2017 season.”

Lansing will start Tre Pledger at quarterback. He will have Jourdan Bridgette and Joe Dill to hand the ball off to. Konner McQuillan and CJ Thomas will be primary aerial threats. 

“We will rely heavily Friday on all three levels of our defense,” McCall said. “The D-line will be led by Stephen Matina, Dameon Lewis, Brett Pine and Eliott Wilk. We return two linebackers, Joe and Carter Burleigh. Konner and CJ will anchor the secondary at safety.”

Leavenworth counters with Robert McKinley and Hayes Edwards sharing snaps at quarterback, while Devin Johnston and Seth Drennan will play running back. Gabe Casmus, Seth Johnson, Cody Herrell, Brandice Lewis and Edwards have all looked good on the defensive side of the ball, according to Littrell.

“Our players have had an excellent work ethic from the beginning of two-a-days,” Littrell said. “Our secondary has been much improved over the past year. Our offensive and defensive lines have shown signs of improvement but they need to be more consistent.”

Bishop Ward at Basehor-Linwood

Now for the encore?

The Basehor-Linwood Bobcats return to the field with hopes of a sequel worthy of the original as they will open 2017 coming off of an 11-1 season and Class 4A-I semifinal spot.

Bishop Ward, which didn’t win a game a year ago, may be the perfect way to jump-start a new year.

“It is a new year so there are always a lot of variables,” BLHS head coach Rod Stallbaumer said. “Bishop Ward is a young team but it is game one, so you know that they will be playing with a lot of confidence. They have switched to a spread offense in the offseason and I’m sure that has created a lot of excitement for them.   

“Like any new season, getting off to a fast start definitely helps. It’s been almost a year since we have played in a competitive game. We have made adjustments, we have new pieces to the puzzle and hope that we can come out and execute and play well.”

J.C. Watson has been tabbed to start at quarterback, and the senior will have three talented running backs in Marlon McDaniel, Nolan Ford and TJ Williams.

Williams, Jace Friesen, Luke Willis and Joey Foster will key the defense.

“We spent the first two weeks of the fall split into green and gold teams,” Stallbaumer said. “We split our roster to foster competition, build our depth and give everyone an opportunity to compete for a spot. It puts us in some more uncomfortable situations and helps us identify our weaknesses faster than if we would spend two weeks having the varsity beat up on the second team.   

“With that said, it doesn’t give us a lot of time to get the chemistry and timing down with our starters once we decide who those people are. So looking polished in game one is always a concern. I think we have had two very good weeks of practice and we have seen noticeable improvement from the first week to today.”

Pleasant Ridge at Horton

The Rams of Pleasant Ridge started 2016 with a bang, rolling past Horton 36-0 to get things going.

But then came an eventual six-game losing streak. The hope is for the same week one result with a much different byproduct.

It won’t be easy against an improved Horton squad.

“Our opponent will play aggressive, physical football,” Rams’ head coach Patrick McCollim said. “They are always very active with stunts and blitzes on defense and have a good running game offensively. They have a good running back coming back that runs tough and we expect him to get a lot of touches.   

“The first game of the year is very important to set the tone for the season. The boys are hyped up and ready to hit someone other than themselves after pounding on each other for three weeks. We feel we are ready and now just need to go out and make plays.”

Breydon Baragary (QB), Jake Heckman (FB), Keaton Comer (slot), Caullen Thompson (slot), Clayton Richter (TE) and Colton Comer (WR) will play key roles on the offensive side of the ball.

Middle linebackers Hunter Wagner and Eli Schwinn and DL Zac Caranoli will anchor what could be another hard-hitting defensive effort.

“We have had a great week of practice,” McCollim said. “We have a very competitive young group of kids this year that gives our varsity group very good looks throughout the week. I feel that is a very valuable asset in preparation and my hat is off to those kids who work hard day in and day out to help prepare the older kids because it is a tough job.   

“We still have too many miscues offensively as far as false starts or misreading the play, but we expect some of those things early. We just got to focus on not shooting ourselves in the foot.”